Maximizing Support Benefits for Families

Many families lack the capabilities to replace the income for their household when they lose a spouse. Depending upon the circumstances, there are many options to prepare for and replace the income from your spouse. 

First, life insurance is a means of replacing income by receiving, mostly if not all, tax-free income from an insurance company by claiming benefits against a policy owned by you or your significant other. To claim the benefits, simply complete a claim form, submit a copy of the death certificate and a copy of your identification. You are not required to be married to be the beneficiary of a spousal life insurance policy. One of our clients divorced after purchasing a life insurance policy. He never changed the beneficiary designation of the policy that originally stated that his wife would receive $500,000 of death benefit proceeds upon his passing. However, our client remarried and, by failing to change his beneficiary designation form, his former spouse received the life insurance benefit! 

Obviously, this could cause some difficulties for the current spouse who may have an outstanding mortgage and other living expenses to pay. The prior spouse is under no obligation to share the proceeds of the life insurance policy with the current spouse and the courts will typically not overrule a beneficiary designation form that has been properly completed by the decedent.

Absent life insurance, your family may be entitled to SSA benefits. If your family consists of children less than 18 years of age on the date of death of your spouse, you may file for survivor’s benefits. The benefit amount depends on the number of years worked by the deceased spouse. As a surviving widow/widower, you may qualify for benefits at age 60 (age 50 if you are disabled). If you care for unmarried children under the age of 16, you may qualify for benefits at any age.

The surviving children of the deceased spouse may qualify for SSA benefits, based on the deceased parent’s earnings base, if the child is younger than 18 years of age or disabled. Some specific requirements must be met to qualify. 

Your children may also qualify for SoonerCare (Medicaid for Oklahoma) to provide dental and heath care. This program will cover the child until he reaches age 19. Oklahoma citizens such as pregnant women and individuals 65 and older also qualify for SoonerCare benefits.

The greatest assets you own are your health and the health of your children. These programs don’t replace the value of a lost loved one but provide the minimal care necessary to give a family hope for the future. If your family has suffered loss, it is important to seek out the assistance of a certified financial planner practitioner that will help you care for your family currently and plan for the future.

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Strategies for Filing for Medicare Benefits

One of the most complex benefits provided by the federal government is Medicare. Numerous elections that affect your lifetime benefits cause people much anxiety. You will learn when and why to file for certain benefits under the Medicare laws in this article.

While working, employers generally provide health insurance benefits for its employees. The coverages are broad and provide a level of safety for the participants. However, when a worker turns age 65, some strategies must be considered about filing for Medicare in a timely and appropriate manner.

Medicare Part A is the program that provides hospitalization coverage for in-patient care, hospice care, skilled nursing facility care and home health care. The cost for this coverage is free to individuals who have worked forty (40) quarters during their career and contributed to the system through payroll deductions. When examining your paystub, the payment for this program is deducted from your gross pay at 1.45% per pay period. All qualified individuals should file for Medicare Part A coverage upon turning age 65 regardless of employment.

If an individual continues to work beyond age 65, Medicare Part A serves as a supplemental to the person’s employer-provided group coverage if the plan covers equal to or more than 20 employees. However, if the employer plan covers fewer than 20 employees, additional research will need to be performed with your employer-plan provider. The insurance company may or may not cover your healthcare needs as the primary insurer. 

Medicare Part B is the program that provides medical insurance for out-patient care. This type of coverage will provide payment for services from your doctors, durable medical equipment costs, preventive services and home health care. The premiums for Medicare Part B are borne, partially, by every participant. For 2019, the monthly premium for Medicare Part B is $135.50. However, some participants may be required to pay an additional amount referred to as the “Part B income-related adjustment amount” if his or her modified adjusted gross income is greater than $85,000 for a single person or $170,000 for a joint filer. Modified adjusted gross income is defined as adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest.

One area of the Medicare Programs that many people don’t understand, or utilize appropriately, is Medicare Part D, the prescription drug coverage. Anyone that is needing prescription drugs on a regular basis for their care should consider the benefits of enrolling in Medicare Part D. There are several punitive measures for failing to enroll at your first opportunity. Many different carriers provide plans for this program and a professional should be consulted to determine which plan is most appropriate for your needs.

Medicare is a wonderful program for those qualified individuals. You don’t have to worry or wonder if you are utilizing the program to its fullest extent. Consult a CPA or Certified Financial PlannersTM practitioner to assist you in enrolling for this important coverage. For additional information about retirement benefits and strategies, please go to our Compass Capital Management Resource Center.

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